It just isn't right, said general manager Pat Gillick, to have to play by a brand new set of rules at this point in the season.
Somehow, it turned out all right anyway. Designated hitter Paul Molitor displaced batting champion John Olerud at first base and then proceeded to dispose of the Philadelphia Phillies. He tripled, homered and made a big defensive play to lead the Blue Jays to a 10-3 victory in Game 3 at Veterans Stadium.
Not a bad night for a guy who could just as easily have been the odd man out in Philadelphia, and is expected to be for games 4 and 5 with Olerud headed back to first.
Gaston made one of the toughest decisions of his career -- perhaps the toughest DH decision since the rule became a sticking point in postseason play -- but Molitor made it work. He drove in three runs in the first three innings to stake starting pitcher Pat Hentgen to a lead and help the Blue Jays take a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.
"We talked before the game and said that whatever Cito decides, we want to make it work," said Molitor, who raised his batting average in postseason play to .394 with three hits but won't be in the starting lineup tonight. "I was able to make a contribution tonight and I feel good about backing up Cito's decision.
"It wasn't really a must win, but we wanted to regain the advantage."
The game almost wasn't played. It was delayed for an hour and 12 minutes by rain. The tarp had to be put over the infield twice between the pre-game ceremonies and the first pitch. The Phillies probably wish the groundskeepers had thrown a blanket over Molitor while they were at it.
The Blue Jays' top MVP candidate also finished with three RBI, three runs scored and, if that wasn't enough, he turned a tough double play with the bases loaded in the seventh inning that kept the Phillies from getting back into the game.
He wasn't alone, however. Second baseman Roberto Alomar contributed four hits to tie a club record and struggling leadoff man Rickey Henderson reached base three times to rough up left-hander Danny Jackson and reliever Ben Rivera.
Hentgen, who won 19 games during the regular season, pitched a strong seven innings and gave up a run on five hits to earn his first career victory in postseason play.
"These guys have been doing it all year for me," Gaston said. "They go out and play hard every day, but they seem to do it when they need to do it."
It didn't take long for the great DH controversy to come into play. Gaston benched Olerud to put Molitor at first after deliberating for several days. The move paid off almost immediately when Molitor tripled into the gap in right field to drive in two runs in the first inning.
Jackson labored from the start, perhaps because he was forced to warm up and then sit through the 72-minute rain delay before taking the mound. He gave up a leadoff single to Henderson and walked Devon White to set up Molitor's two-run triple. Molitor scored the third run of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Joe Carter.
Gaston had several other lineup options going into the first game his team has played under National League rules since spring training. He could have kept Molitor on the bench or played him at third base, but chose to sit Olerud against the left-handed starter.
"It looked to me like Cito made the right choice tonight," said Phillies manager Jim Fregosi.
But that only set up Gaston for another tough decision today. He said before the game that he probably would return Olerud to the lineup and bench Molitor against right-hander Tommy Greene. He said afterward that he still intended to follow that plan.
"We'll still go with Olerud tomorrow and see what happens after that," Gaston said, "but I don't know if I would want to be Oly. He's got a tough act to follow."
Olerud doesn't mind that. Anything has to be easier than sitting, he said after last night's game.
"It was tough, but I think it definitely helped that our team played so well and scored so many runs. You'd like to be in there, but he had a great game, he got us on the board early, got some great hits," Olerud said. "You couldn't ask for a better job.
"It's tough to sit there and watch. You just sit and eat sunflower seeds."
Gaston based his decision to bench Molitor tonight on two factors -- not wanting to disturb his club's defense and a fear that Molitor might risk injury, or have an offensive letdown, playing a position -- either third base or left field -- he hadn't played in two years.
"I don't think it would be fair to him and I think it might take a lot away from him as a player if he has to play out of position," Gaston said.
"If he'd been playing third base, there's no doubt where I would play him," Gaston said. "But there's no question he's had some shoulder problems in the past, and still does. Most of the time you win with pitching and defense, and I think we're better off to stick with that."
Molitor, who seemed to be looking forward to the challenge of a new position before Gaston's decision, admitted that his rare start at first was a little rough.
"I wasn't very coordinated at times," he said. "Getting off to a good start offensively made it a little easier defensively."
Molitor single-handedly kept the sellout crowd of 62,689 out of the game in the early innings. His bases-empty home run in the third gave the Blue Jays a four-run lead. It was Molitor's first World Series home run and his fifth in postseason play.
The Phillies came very close to getting blown out in that third inning, even though Jackson retired the first two batters. Molitor's home run was followed by three straight singles, but Ed Sprague struck out to end the inning.
Jackson ran off a string of seven straight outs after that, but he left for a pinch hitter after throwing 89 pitches and giving up four runs on six hits. He was not the same pitcher who gave up one run over 7 1/3 innings in his only start of the National League Championship Series.
"It looked to me like he came in [before the delay] and was ready to go," Fregosi said. "He had plenty of time to warm up again, but it might have had an effect."
Hentgen's routine was far less affected by the staggered starting time, perhaps because he could hold off on his pre-game warm-up until the Phillies actually took the field. He gave up a couple of hits in the first inning, but settled down quickly to carry a shutout into the sixth.
The Blue Jays' winningest pitcher of 1993 was bounced around by the Chicago White Sox in his only playoff start, but he appeared to have excellent velocity last night. He struck out five of the first nine batters he faced while his teammates were proving that they can get an occasional hit off a left-hander.
It was Toronto's sub-.500 record against left-handers that kept them from being a heavy favorite going into the Series, and they lived down to their reputation against Terry Mulholland in Game 2 on Sunday night at SkyDome. This time, they got something done and got themselves in position to take control of the series with a split of the next two games at Veterans Stadium.
WORLD SERIES TONIGHT
GAME 4 (Best of seven; Blue Jays lead, 2-1) Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia
Blue Jays starter: Todd Stottlemyre (11-13, 4.93)
Phillies starter: Tommy Greene (17-5, 3.70)
TV: Channels 11, 9
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM)
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES vs. TORONTO BLUE JAYS Blue Jays lead, 2-1 Gm. .. Result
1 . .. Blue Jays 8, Phillies 5
2 . .. Phillies 6, Blue Jays 4
3 . .. Blue Jays 10, Phillies 3
Gm. .. Date .. .. .. Site .. .. Time
4 . .. Tonight .. .. Phila. ... 8:12
5 . .. Tomorrow . .. Phila. ... 8:12
6* ... Saturday . .. Toronto .. 8:12
7* ... Sunday ... .. Toronto .. 8:29
TV: All games on channels 11, 9